Homemade Pizza

It seems everyone is crazy about pizza these days. Line-ups for the best pizza in New York. That pizza place in Naples. Even jimmying the lock on your own oven to make pizza!

I haven’t always been the biggest fan of pizza. Well, sure, I ate a lot of it as a kid and teenager, and loved pizza day. But it was the phoned-in, chain pizza that I grew up on,  or the 99 cent pizza place near campus. Delicious in the way that any cheese melted onto anything bread-like is delicious, but nothing mind-blowing.

That is, until I moved to Victoria. I know, I know. It’s unlikely that a quiet government town on the south-west corner of Canada that is famous for being British-lite and a place for cruise ships to dock would wake up my pizza sensibilities. But wake it did. With bells and air horns and cymbals.

Prima Strada Pizzeria makes thin, chewy, fresh, addiction-inducing pizzas in a beautiful brick oven. Their pizza makes me silent and weak in the knees. Every time I go there, I want to order four different kinds. At least. Their restaurant made me understand what all that pizza fuss was about.

So it was only a matter of time, and a bread-making course later, that I thought I’d try my hand at making pizza. Well, rather, I’d try my hand at finding lots of pizza recipes and Thomas would make it. We cobbled together bits and pieces of different recipes, methods and instructions, and away we went.

Homemade Naples-Style Pizza

bread flour: 4-1/2 cups
sea salt: 1-2/4 tsp
instant yeast: 1 tsp
water: 1-3/4 cups, ice cold

Make ahead: Mix all of the ingredients until incorporated. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes to bring the ingredients together even more. Rest 10 minutes.

Knead a couple more minutes to strengthen the gluten. The finished dough should be springy, elasticy, and slightly sticky. It shouldn’t  stick to the sides of the bowl, but it may stick to the bottom. Divide the dough into 3 or 6 pieces, depending on what size pizzas you want to make. Gently shape each into a loose ball. Wrap in saran wrap and store in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 days.

On the day of cooking: Take the dough out of the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for two hours before baking. Preheat your oven for at least one hour before baking. Set it to the highest temperature it will reasonably go (ours was about 500 F), with the pizza stone set on the second to highest rack.

Roll out and shape your dough. We tried the “twirl the dough on your knuckles” method , and found it only lead to sorrow, hopelessness and much cussing. We followed this fellow’s instructions to much better success. I’ll try to put it into words, but the video really explains it best. Spread a generous amount of flour on your work surface. Coat both sides of the dough and your hands in flour. Sprinkle a bit more flour on your work surface for good measure. Gently push the dough outward into a circular shape with the pads of your fingers. Turning the dough with one hand, gently flatten the dough with the ball your other hand. Now the real shaping happens. Place both of your hands on the dough, with your index fingers and thumbs forming a bit of a diamond shape. Your index finger should be at the edge of the dough. Use one hand to anchor the dough. With your other hand, gently pull the dough to the thinness you want. Rotate the dough a couple inches and repeat (Anchor, pull, turn. Anchor, pull, turn). Does this make sense? Just watch the video.

When the dough is stretched out, lay it on a piece of parchment and add your toppings: some fresh mozzarella and a simple uncooked sauce of crushed canned plum tomatoes, some minced garlic, salt and pepper, was just lovely. Slide the pizza with the parchment onto the hot pizza stone and cook until your toppings are bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Our pizzas took from 6 minutes to 10. Pull it out of the oven and top with some fresh basil. Eat immediately.

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